North Texas Daily

Musicians should not stay out of politics

Musicians should not stay out of politics

Musicians should not stay out of politics
February 10
11:00 2021

The modern political climate is tenser than ever and many musicians have been inspired to use their platforms to express their views. Either through their art or social media posts, musicians are voicing their opinions and making people mad in the process. Many of their political posts are riddled with harsh comments demanding they stick to music and stay out of politics. Some musicians have even received death threats for simply expressing themselves.

One of the most extreme cases of a musician facing backlash for getting political involves Natalie Maines from The Chicks. In 2003, Maines expressed a negative opinion about former President George W. Bush. 

“We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas,” Maines said while on stage at a concert in London. 

One comment resulted in The Chicks being blacklisted by the country music industry. People were so angry about her comment they sent her death threats telling her to “shut up and sing.”  Although they eventually made a comeback, the controversy is a permanent stain on their legacy. 

This attitude towards artists is horrific and it shows how some people don’t think of them on a human level. Musicians are humans too and it’s important to remember they have the same rights as we do. It’s dangerous when people stop viewing entertainers as fellow humans. They aren’t making music just for your entertainment, they’re making music to express themselves. 

Another legendary country artist Jimmy Buffett was attacked by fans when he performed at a rally for Florida Democrats in 2018. Fans bombarded his Twitter account with hateful messages vowing to boycott his music. One fan already knew Buffett leaned left politically but had a problem with him expressing his views publicly. Country music fans and artists are known for their right-wing views, but this problem applies to all genres. 

Fast forward to 2018 and Taylor Swift received similar backlash for voicing her political opinions. After years of remaining politically neutral, Swift posted on social media in support of two Democratic candidates for the U.S. House and Senate races in Tennessee. Before speaking out, Swift received backlash for remaining silent. I don’t think it’s right to treat other humans this way, even if they’re famous and have a large platform to air their thoughts. 

When Demi Lovato posted to Instagram to support the second impeachment of Trump, she received a lot of hate. One commenter told her to “stick to singing” while others called her a hypocrite without providing context to support their claims. 

On the other side of the political spectrum lies Kanye West, who infamously supported Donald Trump before attempting to run for president himself. 

Before renouncing his support for Trump, West made an appearance on Saturday Night Live where he says he was ‘bullied’ while backstage. I vehemently disagree with everything Trump stands for, but West shouldn’t have received so much hate for stating his political views at the time. 

Even music magazines like Alternative Press are told to stay out of politics. When they published a post on Instagram congratulating President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on their inauguration, fans swarmed the post urging the publication to stick to music. 

People who get mad when the music gets political are forgetting the historical connection between music and politics. It’s not a new occurrence for people to express their frustrations with the government through music. 

One example is the song “Strange Fruit” written by Abel Meeropol in 1939 and performed by various iconic artists like Nina Simone and Billie Holiday. 

“Strange Fruit” is a strikingly dark song about the atrocities committed against Black people during the Jim Crow Era. It’s an incredibly powerful protest song that’s had a tremendous impact on society and civil rights. These songs provoke thought and motivate people to take action towards making the world a better place for all people. 

Long before “Strange Fruit” was written, music was used by historical figures like Harriet Tubman. She would use the song “Go Down, Moses” as a code while operating the Underground Railroad to free slaves. The song is based on a story from the Old Testament of the Bible about Moses freeing the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.

Protest music has always been used to connect with other humans to bring awareness and create change. Music is one of the most powerful forms of art, it transcends language barriers and it can even be appreciated by the deaf.

If we forget about the historical connection between music and politics, we will lose a crucial aspect of our history and eventually our freedom to express ourselves. Musicians should not stay out of politics, they never have and they never will. 

Featured Illustration by Miranda Thomas

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Shelby Stevens

Shelby Stevens

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